Joseph M. Metzger, PhD

Professor, Department Head and Chair, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology (IBP)

Joseph M. Metzger

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-625-8296

Fax 612-625-5149

Office Address:
6-125A Jackson Hall
321 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Mailing Address:
321 Church Street S.E.
6-125 Jackson Hall
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Fellowship, University of Wisconsin (Post Doctoral Studies), 1991

Doctoral Degree, Marquette University (Biology/Physiology), 1985

Masters Degree, Ball State University (Biology and Exercise Physiology), 1982

Bachelors Degree, St. John's University (Natural Science), 1980


Joseph M. Metzger, Ph.D., is the Maurice Visscher Land-Grant Chair of Physiology and Professor and Head of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The Metzger laboratory uses molecular and integrative biomedical approaches for mechanistic investigations of heart and skeletal muscle function, with the long-range goal of translating these findings to new therapies and treatments for acquired and inherited heart and muscle diseases.

Metzger Lab Mission Statement: We seek mechanistic insights into normal and diseased cardiac and skeletal muscle function. Our overarching goal is to translate basic science discoveries into potential therapeutic strategies to combat inherited and acquired forms of heart and muscle diseases. Lab projects embrace individuality, emphasize cooperation and collaboration, and encompass a standard of excellence to all that we do as individual researchers and as a laboratory. Our guiding principles are to treat others with respect and courtesy, to maintain the lab in a collegial, safe and professional environment, and to work each day to the fullest of our capabilities.

Metzger received a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Science from Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota (1980), a Master’s degree in Biology and Exercise Physiology from Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana (1982), a Ph.D. degree in Biology/Physiology under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Fitts from Marquette University Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1985), and performed post doctoral studies with Dr. Richard Moss at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin (1991). His lab designed and implemented a cardiac muscle-cell system that allows the transfer of genes into heart cells in order to assess the impact of those genes on the production of force and motion, the major function of cardiac muscle cells. The approach has the advantage of shedding light on the primary role of a normal or mutated gene in an otherwise normal muscle cell.

Metzger’s findings have been published in top peer journals including Nature, Science, Nature Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Heart Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Federation to Eradicate Duchenne, and has opened the path to treatment for a variety of heart and muscle diseases.

Awards & Recognition

  • University of Michigan Alumni Society Distinguished Service Award, 2019
  • University of Michigan MIP Postdoctoral Fellows Keynote Lecturer, 2018
  • Elected, Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA), 2013
  • The John S. Colter Lectureship, 2009
  • The Robert P. Wade Memorial Lecturership, 2009
  • Michigan Medial School Teaching Recognition, 2000/2003
  • University of Michigan Faculty Recognition Award, 2002
  • Finalist, Kaiser-Permanente Award for Excellence in Medical Student Teaching, 1999/2001/2002
  • Teacher of the Month, Medical School Teaching Recognition, 2001
  • Michigan Medical Student Award for Teaching Excellence, 1999
  • Elizabeth A. Crosby Medical School Teaching Award, 1999
  • American Heart Association Cardiovascular Research Prize Finalist, 1998
  • Edgar D. Prince Research Award, 1996
  • Council on Circulation Research Award Finalist, 1996
  • Associate Editor: Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics, 1995
  • Established Investigator, American Heart Association, 1994
  • Young Investigator Award, American Heart Association, Asilomar Conference, 1993
  • Boots Pharmaceutical Heart Failure Research Prize Finalist, 1993
  • Young Investigator Award, American Heart Association Snowbird Conference, 1992
  • Whitaker Foundation Biomedical Research Award, 1991
  • NIH National Research Service Award, 1986
  • Pharmacia Award for Exceptional Achievement in Biological Research by a Graduate Student, 1985
  • Marquette University Research Fellowship, 1984
  • NCAA Track and Field All-American; 1979
  • Saint John’s University Academic Scholarship, 1976


Research Summary/Interests

We are a mechanistically driven biomedical research lab focused on the form and function of heart and skeletal muscle in health and disease. We use molecular and integrative biomedical approaches for mechanistic investigations of heart and skeletal muscle function, with the long-range goal of translating these findings to new therapies and treatments for acquired and inherited heart and muscle diseases.

  • Integrative systems biology of cardiac and skeletal muscle function
  • Gene therapy, Gene and Base Editing
  • Synthetic chemistries as membrane stabilizers
  • Transgenic models of heart and muscle diseases
  • Molecular mechanisms of sarcomere function
  • Human iPS cell cardiac and skeletal muscle


Selected Publications

  • Wheelwright M, Mikkila J, Bedada FB, Mandegar MA, Thompson BR, Metzger JM. Advancing physiological maturation in human iPSC-derived cardiac muscle by gene editing an inducible adult troponin isoform switch.Stem Cells. 2020 Jun 4. doi: 10.1002/stem.3235. Online ahead of print. PMID: 32497296.
  • Bez Batti Angulski A, Bauer J, Cohen H, Kobuke K, Campbell KP, Metzger JM. Investigations of an inducible intact dystrophin gene excision system in cardiac and skeletal muscle in vivo.Scientific Reports. 2020 Jul 3; 10(1):10967. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-67372-0. PMID: 32620803
  • Vetter A, Martin AA, Thompson BR, Thomas DD, Metzger JM. Sarcomere integrated biosensor detects myofilament-activating ligands in real time during twitch contractions in live cardiac muscle. Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology. 2020 Aug 10:S0022-2828(20)30234-0. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2020.07.012. Online ahead of print. PMID: 32791214

  • Houang E, Haman, Karen; Kim, Mihee; Zhang, Wenjia; Lowe, Dawn; Sham, Yuk; Lodge, Timothy; Hackel, Benjamin; Bates, Frank S, Metzger, J.M. Chemical endgroup modified diblock copolymers elucidate anchor and chain mechanism of membrane stabilization. Molecular Pharmaceutics. 2017 Jul 3;14(7):2333-2339. doi: 10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.7b00197. Epub 2017 Jun 12. PMID: 28538101

  • Barnabei MS, Sjaastad FV, Townsend D, Bedada FB, and Metzger JM. Severe dystrophic cardiomyopathy by the enteroviral protease 2A–mediated dystrophin C-terminus cleavage fragment. Science Translational Medicine. 2015 Jul 1;7 (294):294. PMID: 26136477.
  • Wang W, Barnabei BS, Asp M, Heinis F, Arden E, Davis J, Braunlin E, Li Q, Davis J, Potter JD, and Metzger JM. Noncanonical EF-hand Motif Strategically Delays Ca2+ Buffering to Enhance Cardiac Performance. Nature Medicine. In Press. 2013.
  • Townsend D, Turner I,Yasuda S, Martindale J, Shillingford M, Kornegay JN and Metzger JM. Severe cardiac injury and ventricular dilatation in dystrophic dogs prevented by chronic administration of membrane sealants. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 120(4):1140–1150. doi:10.1172/JCI41329, 2010.
  • Day, S.M., M.V. Westfall, E.V. Fomicheva, N. La Cross, S. Yasuda, K. Hoyer, J.S. Ingwall, Metzger JM. Histidine Button Engineered into Cardiac Troponin I Protects the Heart from Ischemic Contractile Failure. Nature Medicine. Feb;12(2):181-9, 2006.
  • Yasuda S, Townsend D, Michele, D, Favre E, Day S, and Metzger JM. Dystrophic heart failure blocked by membrane sealant poloxamer. Nature. 18:1025-9. 2005.
  • Michele DE, Albayya FP, Metzger JM. Direct, convergent hypersensitivity of calcium activated force generation produced by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy associated mutant a-tropomyosin expression in adult cardiac myocytes. Nature Medicine. 5: 1413-1417, 1999.
  • Metzger JM, Moss RL. Calcium-sensitive cross-bridge transitions in mammalian fast and slow skeletal muscle fibers. Science. 247: 1088-1090, 1990.

PUBMED Link to Publications